With Mark Cunliffe-Lister
As the owner of Swinton Estate, a 20,000-acre estate in the Yorkshire Dales with 9,000 acres of heather moorland, I was delighted to have been asked by Talking Game to explain the work the Moorland Association, for whom I have recently been elected as Chair.
In many of the towns and villages surrounding our grouse moors, we have a vibrant community of game chefs who are committed advocates of the versatility and nutritional benefits of grouse. The Great British Game Week is an annual event during which wild game is celebrated. Game chefs are joined by gamekeepers to demonstrate the importance of moorland management for wild red grouse and a sustainable harvest of birds for consumers.
Aside from the depth of flavour and the nutritional value, our members pride themselves on ensuring that their shoots adhere to the highest possible standards. From game handling and animal welfare to habitat management and sustainability, they recognise the importance in retaining consumer confidence through high quality assurance. This, ultimately, strengthens our industry, promotes the value of game and gives us the best possible chance to enter new markets and introduce even more people to game.
So much of this is achieved through the British Game Alliance and I sit on the advisory committee. I believe they are doing an excellent job in promoting all game as a truly wild and sustainable food source. This is something I feel strongly about as we bought back our family home in 2000 and turned it into a hotel that aims to give guests the experience of staying in a genuine country house and sampling some of the wonderful produce we have on offer. This can be the game when it is in season but also fruit and vegetables from our four-acre walled garden and the wider estate.
We soon decided that we also wanted to show guests how to prepare the food themselves and set up a cookery school over 15 years ago. This again uses estate-produce when available and includes foraging courses that takes guests around the estate looking for wild food. Sensible harvesting of wild food is one of the most sustainable food sources we have. The red grouse is very much an example of this and that is why grouse shooting has been practiced on this estate by many previous generations.
Of course, we can only enjoy the taste of grouse and other game if we manage moorland well.
The UK’s moorlands are very special places and we need to do everything we can to make sure they can be treasured by generations to come.
Moorland Association members look after 860,000 acres of heather moorland in England. Nine out of every ten acres carries a designation of some sort from National Park to Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; Site of Special Scientific Interest to European protected site. More than 60 per cent of England’s upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are moors managed for grouse shooting contributing to their qualifying biodiversity.
This means we continue to work hard within a strict protective legal framework to provide great habitat for a wide range of wildlife, a rich tapestry of purple heather and peatland that plays an important role in carbon capture.
We must continue to highlight the plethora of nature we are lucky enough to encounter on a daily basis knowing it is a result of our conservation management and ensure biodiversity gains are open to scientific scrutiny. In a state of nature emergency, it is crucial to show what works to maintain and increase populations.
We are also working alongside specialist peatland scientists to demonstrate the best management for long-term gains from peatland restoration and maintenance to do our bit towards NetZero and climate change mitigation.
In generations gone by, moors were often valued by some land owners solely for what they provided in terms of grouse shooting. That is far from the case now with a holistic view of the most sustainable outcomes for biodiversity, agriculture, public goods like flood and climate change mitigation, and cultural and economic benefits in hard pressed remote rural communities. //